|07.07.09 at 12:12 am ET|
As Nomar Garciaparra strolled to the plate to lead off the second inning Monday night in an Oakland A’s uniform, he had an idea of what to expect from the fans.
What he didn’t realize was just how long he was going to have to savor the moment. The fans rose to their feet and cheered him for well over a minute.
“It went on and on,” Garciaparra said afterward. “It was just something special and a memory I’ll have with me for the rest of my life.”
He not only thanked Jason Varitek at the plate for the chance to take over a minute for the crowd to cheer him as he tipped his helmet, but he thanked home plate umpire Greg Gibson for pausing and then getting over home plate to clean it so that he could enjoy it a little longer. Read the rest of this entry »
|07.06.09 at 9:44 pm ET|
Entering Monday, Brett Anderson’s season had offered little to write home about. The Athletics’ starter had a 4-7 record and 5.45 ERA. But the highly regarded prospect pitched to his hype on Monday, dominating the Sox en route to a complete-game, two-hit shutout and leading Oakland to a 6-0 win. The A’s out-hit the Sox, 15-2. Anderson needed just 109 pitches to dispatch and overmatch the Sox.
The Sox have now been shut out twice this year, tied for the fewest times in the majors. They were previously blanked by Matt Garza and the Rays on April 30.
The last pitcher to throw a complete-game while allowing two hits or fewer against the Red Sox was John Lackey, who took a no-hitter into the ninth last July 29 before Boston finally got a pair of hits in the second-to-last game of Manny Ramirez‘ career with the Sox. The last pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout while holding the Sox to no more than two hits was Rays starter James Shields, who threw a two-hitter in Tampa on April 27, 2008.
Nomar Garciaparra went 2-for-4 in his return to Boston.
|07.06.09 at 9:42 pm ET|
Leading off the top of the eighth, Nomar Garciaparra singled off the glove of diving Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis and was replaced by pinch-runner Rajai Davis. Garciaparra finished the night having gone 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a few big ovations.
Garciaparra is a career .337 hitter at Fenway, the sixth best average by anyone with at least 500 at-bats at the Red Sox’ home since 1957.
|07.06.09 at 8:48 pm ET|
After he pitched just four innings before a rain delay shortened his last outing against the Orioles, John Smoltz lamented that he had lost a perfect opportunity to experiment with his pitches. He suggested that the game situation — a 10-1 Red Sox lead — would have been ideal for letting him work on the feel of his different offerings.
On Monday, it appears that he is employing a 4-0 deficit for the purpose that eluded him last week in Baltimore. After largely avoiding his fastball in favor of a diet of off-speed offerings in the four-run fourth inning, Smoltz turned to the fastball in the fifth, recording all three outs with the pitch – a Matt Holliday strikeout, a Jason Giambi groundout and a Nomar Garciaparra fly out.
In the sixth, he has added a curveball while continuing to employ the rest of his fastball-splitter-slider-change mix. Smoltz got touched for another run, as Jack Cust doubled on a fastball and Adam Kennedy drove him in by jumping on a changeup over the middle of the plate.
Smoltz has spent much of the past few innings either shouting at or talking to himself. The exchanges have not been pleasant ones. Smoltz is probably done after six innings, 99 pitches, five runs and 10 hits.
Heading into the bottom of the sixth: Athletics 5, Red Sox 0
|07.06.09 at 8:15 pm ET|
As was the case in his first outing against the Nationals, John Smoltz has been relying primarily on off-speed stuff, and has seemed distrustful of his low-90s fastball. He has leaned primarily on a diet of sliders, changeups and splitters, as was the case in the fourth inning, when the 42-year-old threw just six fastballs among his 23 pitches. He seemed comfortable only with his slider for most of the inning.
After navigating through the first three innings while holding Oakland scoreless, Smoltz’ frustration in the fourth was evident. He shouted at himself on a couple of occasions, most notably when he hung an 0-1 changeup that Ryan Sweeney whacked off the Wall for a two-run double. Smoltz allowed four runs on five hits in the inning (including an RBI single by Nomar Garciaparra that gave the A’s their first run). Oakland is ahead, 4-0, entering the bottom of the third.
|07.06.09 at 8:02 pm ET|
In his first major-league at-bat, Aaron Bates took a pair of pitches for balls, fouled off a 95 mph fastball from Brett Anderson, took a slider to go ahead 3-1, fouled off another fastball and then, on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, popped out to short on another 96 mph fastball. The outcome probably isn’t what Bates dreamed about when he envisioned this day, but the first-baseman is now officially in the Baseball Encyclopedia.
Bates, who was born in Manhattan, moved to Northern California when he was about one year old. He grew up a Giants fan, but the fact that his debut comes against the Oakland Athletics means that most of the people with whom he grew up will have little trouble watching Bates’ first big-league game on TV.
|07.06.09 at 7:55 pm ET|
Orlando Cabrera, who has been coming to Boston as a member of opposing clubs for years, was greeted with similar (though, of course, not quite equal) warmth for the memories of his work at shortstop in place of Garciaparra in contributing to the 2004 championship.
Tonight’s Red Sox shortstop got no such love. Julio Lugo, who was out on the field at 3 p.m. to take early batting practice and stay sharp during a period when he is getting almost no playing time, entered today hitting .435 (10-for-23) in his last 10 games. He had started just three of the Sox’ last 18 games. He was scheduled to sit tonight, but Dustin Pedroia’s departure for a family matter prompted Lugo’s name being added to the lineup roughly one hour before tonight’s game.
Lugo flied out in the first, and then, when after he fielded Adam Kennedy’s grounder up the middle in the top of the third, he tried to plant his foot on the grass for the throw. Lugo’s chuck to first sailed over the head of first baseman Aaron Bates for an error, Lugo’s seventh of the year.
Reaction at Fenway was not warm. Lugo was immediately booed. It appears that his relationship with Boston fans is all but irreparable. Lugo could probably open an orphanage and buy everyone in the park tonight a Fenway Frank. It would not matter. He would likely still be the most scrutinized man at Fenway Park.
|07.06.09 at 7:34 pm ET|
Though former Red Sox All-Star Nomar Garciaparra anticipated before the game that he would be “a little emotional” in his return to Fenway Park, he clearly had no means of anticipating the actual experience of his return. As he stepped to the plate to lead off the top of the second inning, Garciaparra was greeted by a rousing standing ovation that was sustained. He acknowledged the fans, first by doffing his batting helmet, then by patting his heart in acknowledgement of the cheers. The ovation continued and Garciaparra found himself wiping tears from his eyes. The home-plate umpire, Greg Gibson, tried to afford Garciaparra a moment to compose himself by going to dust off home plate, but when the Oakland D.H. needed more than that, Gibson simply remained bent over home plate until Garciaparra was finally ready to enter the batter’s box.
When he stepped in, Sox starter John Smoltz fed Garciaparra four straight breaking balls: a slider (called strike), changeup (ball), slider (foul) and another change. The fourth pitch resulted in a groundout to third, On his way back to the Oakland dugout, Garciaparra pointed in appreciation into the Red Sox’ dugout. What was undoubtedly one of the most challenging at-bats of Garciaparra’s career is now in the books.
The notion that Garciaparra might face a hostile reception at Fenway turned out to be wrong to an extreme. Clearly, the fans were more interested in the former shortstop’s greatness while in Boston, a run from 1996-2004 that included:
–The fourth highest career batting average (.323) as a Red Sox
–The fifth highest career slugging mark (.553) in franchise history
–The sixth highest career OPS (.923)
–Two batting titles (1999, 2000)
–Rookie of the Year honors (1997)
–A season as the runner-up in the American League MVP race (1998)
–A season (2000) in which he hit .372, the fourth-highest single-season mark in franchise history
|07.06.09 at 6:36 pm ET|
Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie’s minor-league rehab assignment is nearing its conclusion, but it is unlikely that he will be ready to return by Friday, when the 20-day assignment will be at an end. Lowrie, who went 3-for-5 for Double-A Portland on Monday in just his seventh minor-league game, might well need more time in the minors beyond the window afforded by a minor-league rehab assignment. He missed several games after getting drilled by a pitch on the knee, and then missed more while Triple-A Pawtucket endured a succession of rainouts.
Even so, the Red Sox can extend Lowrie’s minor-league assignment beyond Friday if they so choose. Because Lowrie still has options remaining, if the team deems him unready to rejoin the club before the All-Star break, it could simply option him to Triple-A so that he could continue to play regularly prior to his activation from the disabled list. Lowrie has two options remaining, meaning that he can be shuttled between the major- and minor-league rosters for two more seasons without his consent and without being subjected to waivers.
|07.06.09 at 6:02 pm ET|
With his voice weakening several times and nearing the cracking point, a soft-spoken and smiling Nomar Garciaparra spoke on Monday afternoon just hours prior to taking the Fenway Park field for the first time since a blockbuster trade sent him to the Chicago Cubs in 2004.
“My thoughts are excited, anxious, nervous,” Garciaparra said in anticipation of the reception from Fenway fans as he returns with the Oakland A’s. “For me, that’s what’s going go through me.”
“I didn’t realize at the time and I didn’t understand Boston well enough,” Francona said, before adding, “Sometimes I think he was Bostoned out”
Garciaparra will bat sixth and DH for the opener.
He was asked a wide range of questions, from his thoughts about the fans, to his thoughts on steroids to being traded before the 2004 deadline and missing out on a chance to play in the World Series.
He said he didn’t know what to expect when he steps to the plate for the first time.
“I don’t know what to expect. I hope it’s great,” he said.
As for his time in Boston, he said he had no regrets about the way he played.
“I can look in mirror that I did everything I could,” Garciaparra said.
But he admitted that toward the end he probably could have been more media friendly as the pressure began to build playing in a city like Boston.
“I would’ve handled this (media) a little different,” he said. “If I didn’t learn from that, then shame on me.”
Asked if he had any regrets about not being apart of the 2004 team when they finally made it to and won the World Series, Garciaparra handled himself graciously.
“I felt so much apart of it,” he said. “Getting the ring. I felt so much apart of it because it was a championship season.”
Garciaparra spoke about being diagnosed last year with a genetic condition that led to the numerous injuries he’s sustained since leaving Boston in 2004.
“I have a genetic condition that caused (injuries),” he explained. “It’s something I’ll have to deal with rest of my life. More of a relief when I found out.”
Those injuries led to the realization coming into this season that he has been reduced to a DH and utility player.
“I was on the verge of retiring last year,” he said. “I always believed baseball could be over in an instant.”
Then there was the question about steroids, and how he felt about teammates like Manny Ramirez who have been suspended for testing positive for PEDs.
“I don’t know their whole story behind it (steroids). I think it’s disappointing,” he said. “This game doesn’t deserve that.”
But his most heartfelt emotion came when asked about playing before the fans of Boston again.
“I love them,” he said. “I don’t know how else to put it.I’m a little emotional. Cant believe the wonderful experience here and it’s all because of them.”
He said he missed talking to the Fenway game day staff he saw everyday since beginning his career in 1997, when he was American League Rookie of the Year.
“[It was] emotional, coming here, seeing people at the gate,” he said. “That’s what makes this place so special.”
He was also asked about the shortstop turnover since his departure, which began with Orlando Cabrera, ironically the starting Oakland shortstop. That leads to the debate as to whether Garciaparra is the best shortstop to ever don a Red Sox uniform.
“If I’m looked at that way thanks (to fans),” said Garciaparra. “If that’s the case, I must have done alright.”
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